As a certified therapy dog, Jonny Justice -- one of Michael Vick's former dogs -- participated in Paws for Tales, a reading to dogs program overseen by the Peninsula Humane Society and SPCA. But Patricia Harding, a librarian in Burlingame, Calif., banned pit bulls from coming to her library. Jonny and his human partner, Cris Cohen, hadn't participated at that library yet, but another Paws for Tales pit bull reading team was kicked out.
When Cohen pointed out to the city that this violated a California code that prohibits cities from enacting policies and programs that restrict dogs based on breed, the city conceded that the library couldn't keep its new breed discriminatory policy. Instead, they cancelled the reading program.
Reading aloud to dogs has been shown to improve children's reading skills by 12 percent, in addition to improving self-confidence and overall engagement in school. It also helps adults learning English and, in Burlingame, people with a fear of dogs used the program as a way to overcome their phobia in a safe library environment.
But Burlingame's community no longer gets any of these benefits ... all because a librarian didn't like the way some dogs look.
Tell Burlingame to reinstate a reading to dogs program at its public library, welcoming all breeds.
Photo credit: Eric Risberg
Reading aloud to dogs has been shown to improve children's reading skills by 12 percent, in addition to improving self-confidence and overall engagement in school. Adults also benefit from the program, particularly those who are learning English, or want a safe environment to overcome a fear of dogs.
But instead of providing these opportunities in Burlingame, the attempted breed restriction and subsequent cancellation of the library's program has sent a strong message to the community that you support judging a book by its cover.
All dogs involved in the reading program, regardless of their appearance, have undergone extensive temperament testing and training. A dog like Jonny Justice, who had been rescued from Michael Vick, also provides an opportunity for people to learn about second chances. While Jonny and his owner have moved on, the Burlingame Public Library would be lucky to get another dog like him involved a reading program -- a dog who can help teach lessons about discrimination and resilience.
Burlingame's kids and the community have lost out because of the decision to stop the reading to dogs program. I urge you to reinstate the program, welcoming all breeds.